10 July 2012

A Homestead Firearm

(Adapted from “The Self-Reliant Homestead”)

           Not too many years ago, any writer penning a piece about self-sufficiency and homesteading would have run a precious few articles about firearms.  The fact is, that many of the former generation of back-to-the-landers, so to speak, were averse to firearms in general.  Today's social and political climate have changed attitudes and shaped philosophies considerably, however.  Most homesteaders, small farmers and rural landowners not only accept the idea of firearms ownership, they see them as an absolute necessity and another indispensable tool in maintaining their way of life.  Also, firearms are simply interesting.  Target shooting and plinking is fun.  Hunting can help put meat on the table.  The ability to defend ourselves and our homes is our responsibility.
            With all social and political commentary laid aside, I am going to address the subject of firearms selection.  Not everyone living on the land has developed a familiarity with firearms.  In fact, many have never held a firearm of any type in their hands.  Some have no desire to.  Some homesteaders develop an interest in owning a firearm as the need presents itself.  Others were raised where firearms were accepted and as commonplace as an ax, hoe, or other tool.
            When discussing firearms for use in and around the homestead, it is difficult for any writer to keep personal prejudices out of the discussion.  Favorite calibers, gauges, manufacturers, models, and other preferences inevitably enter into the discussion.  When these opinions and observations are based largely upon one's personal experience, such information can be helpful in selecting or recommending a good firearm for the homestead.  I am going to jump directly into this controversial topic and offer the following.
Having been around firearms both privately and professionally for about 50 years, I can offer a somewhat educated opinion.  I, too, am not without my personal preferences when it comes to firearms. However, I am going to offer thoughts on one particular type of firearm and this post will hopefully get you thinking in about firearms on your own place. 
If I were to have to settle on just one single firearm for use on the homestead, I would probably choose neither a rifle nor a handgun.  Given the "one gun" alternative, I would have to choose a shotgun.  More specifically, I would select a well-made popular model of a 12-gauge pump action shotgun.   

The Mossberg 500 comes in several variations.  This one has a short, maneuverable barrel and bead sights.

The Remington 870 is a popular shotgun.  This one has an extended magazine that holds a couple of extra shotshells.
  For hunting, protection of livestock & crops from predators (two or four legged) or varmints (two or four legged), a shotgun covers the spectrum well.  For hunting, shotguns are adaptable for taking any species of game.   Loads for the shotgun range from fine shot for taking small gamebirds, such as dove or quail, to single slugs heavy enough to kill a grizzly bear.  They are widely used for hunting squirrel and other small game.  Those of us who did not cut our hunting teeth on taking squirrels with a single shot .22 rifle, probably used an old single shot, break action shotgun. They are effective weapons against farmyard predators and fearsome home defense weapons.
            When talking about shotguns, something should be said about choke.  Choke is the term given to the amount of restriction placed on the end of the shotgun barrel to determine the amount of spread the shot pattern will create.  Generally, three variations are available:  full, modified and improved cylinder. 
            In the middle, and probably of most use, is the modified choke.  It is a good general-purpose choke and is probably what I would recommend to a first time shotgun buyer.  Obviously, since this choke lies between the tightest and widest patterns, you can expect it to perform somewhere between the two.  It does just that, providing good coverage of the target with shot, but not so much as to overkill at normal moderate ranges.  From all this, a good solid pump-action 12 gauge shotgun in modified choke should provide decades of dependable and versatile service to the buyer. 
            I also emphasize this fact:  If you are a new or inexperienced shooter, be absolutely sure you receive good instruction in the safe and proper operation and shooting of your weapon.  It is your responsibility.
            For information on places to shoot or where to attend firearms classes, check out a local gun club or shooting range.  Firearms dealers can also often help you find a place where you can learn about and become comfortable with your firearm.  Your local Fish and Wildlife Officer can likely provide information on Hunter Education classes in your area.  Just remember, safe use of the firearm is your responsibility.

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